A lovely bench sits sheltered in trees within a beautiful Southern California meditation garden.
There are signs posted to "Please Respect the Quiet", the peacefulness and this special place where many come to relax and meditate. On a recent visit, I sat on this bench to enjoy some peace and quiet after a busy week.
Ahhhh... with eyes closed, I first noticed the feeling of the breeze wafting through the trees around me. I could hear the water bubbling in a nearby Koi pond. As I tried to quiet my mind, I wondered what it would be like to have complete silence in this space. No noise of any kind. And then I started noticing and creating a mental list of the sounds surrounding me. So much for turning off my thoughts! Beyond these gardens, lies a road, sidewalks and a quaint beach town. In the span of less than five minutes, this is what I heard... in this order.
A car trunk slammed
A zipper - - probably a camera case
Cameras clicking in the gardens
A teenager talking on a cell phone on the sidewalk outside the gardens
A plane flew overhead - - military - - loud
A car engine starting
Somebody whispered "bless you"
The beeping sound of a large truck backing up
A security guard helping an older woman with her walker
A baby cried
Squeaky car brakes
Birds in the trees overhead
Wind blowing through the leaves
Footsteps walking through gravel
For 'hearing' people, these are sounds that play in the background of our daily lives. And these sounds are heard in a place which is designed to be quiet. Venture out into the city and add in other voices and horns blowing and endless ambient sounds.
For many of us, I think the closest we get to silence is when we slip underwater. Of course, this doesn't count if one is in a community pool on the weekend. The sound changes, but it's definitely not silent.
While our tendency is often to ponder how curious the Deaf must be regarding sound, I wonder how many hearing people are curious about the experience of complete silence. Does the brain finally relax when not constantly noticing, categorizing, evaluating and processing sounds? Or is it the opposite? For the Deaf, is it possible that the brain remains on 'high alert' using the other senses... compensating for the lack of sound? I can't help but wonder.
Via new hearing aids, a young man named Austin Chapman recently heard music for the first time. He was emotional and amazed, but confesses that 'silence' is still his favorite sound.